Two Morristown council challengers nixed from Democratic primary; mayoral candidates agree to debate

Kristi Dimogerodakis with her council nominating petition; the Morristown clerk said it lacked enough valid signatures to qualify. Photo via Facebook.
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They called their ticket “Giving Morristown Back to the People.”  But it looks like the people may have to wait.

Council candidates Kristi Dimogerodakis and Shaan Patel did not submit enough valid petition signatures to qualify for the 2021 Democratic primary, town Clerk Margot Kaye indicated on Wednesday.

Asked if she plans to appeal, Dimogerodakis answered: “Of course I do, as soon as I am provided the correct information from the town clerk, who is refusing to provide it.”

Kaye certified petitions for Mayor Tim Dougherty and his at-large council slate of incumbents Toshiba Foster and David Silva and newcomer Nathan Umbriac.

New town Clerk Margot Kaye welcome audience at Morristown r
New town Clerk Margot Kaye welcome audience at Morristown reorganization meeting, New Year’s Day 2018. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

As things stand now, that council ticket will run unopposed in the June 8 primary.

The mayor, who seeks a fourth term, will face a primary challenge, from Esperanza Porras-Field, whose nominating petition was certified by the clerk.

Dougherty and Porras-Field will be asked to debate by the League of Women Voters of the Morristown Area, the League’s Debbie McComber told Morristown Green on Wednesday.

“We absolutely plan to invite mayoral candidates to a virtual debate,” McComber said.

Will they accept?

“Of course,” Dougherty said.

“Yes,” Porras-Field said.

Nobody filed for a Republican primary in Morristown.

DOING THE MATH

The Democratic candidates, either jointly or separately, needed 43 valid signatures from registered Democrats in town. Kaye said that number represents 5 percent of votes cast in the party’s last primary in which a state Assembly member was elected. Which happened to be last year.

Kaye referred petition questions to Council President Stefan Armington.  He said 17 of the 56 signatures submitted jointly by Dimogerodakis and Patel were rejected. Two signatories turned out to be Republicans; another name was illegible, Armington said.

The duo’s petition was handed in about 75 minutes before Monday’s 4 pm deadline, leaving no time for a second try, the council president said.

State Superior Court is where appeals are heard.

Dimogerodakis’ family has owned Verilli’s bakery since 1988. Throughout the pandemic, she has provided food to the Morristown Neighborhood House, the Table of Hope and the Interfaith Food Pantry, among other organizations, she said.

Toshiba Foster is sworn in to second year as council president, by Mayor Tim Dougherty and town Clerk Margot Kaye, at Morristown government reorganization, Jan. 8, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin
Toshiba Foster is sworn in to second year as council president, by Mayor Tim Dougherty and town Clerk Margot Kaye, at Morristown government reorganization, Jan. 8, 2019. Photo by Kevin Coughlin

“I would like to see change in Morristown… I would like the people of Morristown to matter again!” Dimogerodakis said of her decision to run for council. 

Patel, who works at his family’s Wine Cellar business on South Street, could not be reached immediately for comment on Wednesday.

Although she aligns with Dimogerodakis and Patel, Porras-Field said she has not created an official ticket. She announced her mayoral candidacy, and collected 75 signatures, ahead of the council challengers’ entry into the race, she said.

Porras-Field is a realtor and founder of the Morris County Hispanic-American Chamber of Commerce.  Dougherty, a former councilman, is an engineer at the Prudential Center in Newark.

Foster, the council vice-president, seeks a third term. Silva, a pastor who is the town’s first Latino councilman, is running for his second four-year seat.

This story has been updated with the mayoral candidates’ positions regarding a virtual debate.

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10 COMMENTS

  1. I will never ever vote Democrat but if Kristi needs a signature I am in run Republican. Heck run for Mayor there is no Republicans running. Morristown has turned into a disgrace. How the heck is Dougherty even running and what is going on with the wife’s legal problems.

  2. @LorenaInestroza I HIGHLY doubt the Town Clerk was at error but if you have evidence, present it to the Court.

  3. @Dannie Hampton, she collected over the amount of signatures required. Its the Town Clerk’s erroneous disqualification of some, which are being reversed.

    Welcome to Morristown!

  4. To file as an independent candidate you have to submit your petition by the day of the primary. If you are running in the primary and lose, you are too late to file as an independent. But you can do a write-in campaign for the general election.

  5. If you can’t get just 43 valid signatures delivered to the Clerk’s office, maybe you shouldn’t be running for Council.

  6. Looks like valid voter signatures and ID confirmation are important for getting into the NJ primaries. Not sure why, for a small very vocal few, they aren’t important in an actual election.

  7. If the candidates fail to be in the primary, they can change their party affiliation to Unaffiliated, then file a new petition to be in the general election.

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